Visiting friends and relatives

2015-07-02 06:00

STATISTICS via Tourism KwaZulu-Natal indicate that some 21% of our overseas and Africa-based visitors and a staggering 53% of domestic visitors to our province use visiting friends and relatives (VFR) as the reason for their going to a destination.

VFR has some interesting guises all of which contribute towards a tourism economy. As a sampling, the family who visits somebody in prison (think of Kokstad), a loved one in hospital, a wedding, a funeral, those who are at some boarding school or university or those who are in a retirement complex.

One can go further, school reunions and in the U.S. for example, military reunions are huge business for local tourism - why? To reunite family, comrades and friends.

In Scotland, clan gatherings are massive especially when many of the “macs” from all over the world pout with tartan pride to the whirl of the bagpipes alongside some windswept loch, snow-capped highland peak and a long ruined castle. This is not too different when locally, occasions are held within the extended family and tribal structures of our proud Nguni communities.

VFR applies to our rural communities where often family members work away from their traditional family hearths and frequently return to cherish family ties and cultural occasions. This is a huge and often unquantifiable element of our tourism industry.

For logistical, economic or even personal reasons many VFR visitors choose not to actually stay with their family and friends and as such, local hospitality establishments receive the spin-off from these guests. This alternative use of hospitality takes place in both the informal and formal segments of our tourism industry.

By actually staying with family or friends, there is usually a significant saving for the visitor - we hope that in saving on accommodation, our VFR guests will re-allocate spend towards retail and entertainment which are important elements within the tourism value chain.

I have a friend who happily received a visit from his son from the U.S. Two years later the son is still in the home and without contribution, draining the family coffers. The lesson for VFR guests thus has to be - do not overstay your welcome or you may never get a re-invite again.

Our South Coast is very much a family orientated destination so in essence we are all hosting ambassadors. To my way of thinking as many households as possible should have a copy of the Southern Explorer so that touring options for our VFR tourist are recommended to them.

In so doing, a big slice of our tourism market can really savour the Greater South Coast

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